Buildings: Global Consumption & Sustainability
When I was born there were 3 billion people on the earth. When I turned 40 there were 6 billion people on the earth. When my daughters turns 40 there will be over 12 billion people on the earth.
“If undeveloped countries consumed at the same rate as the US, four complete planets the size of the Earth would be required. Americans constitute 5% of the world’s population but consume 24% of the world’s energy.”
At the current rate of population growth and human consumption at some point there is no debate the earth will not be able to supply the resources necessary to meet societies needs and our current rate of consumption.
At this inevitable rate of growth the time to act is now before it’s too late. If we continue to build homes that demand the current resources to build, maintain and operate our homes and commercial spaces the point on the graph where these two points meet will likely be in my lifetime but in most cases in my daughter’s lifetime and I cannot as a responsible parent and as a steward of the planet allow this to happen.
Building Science Digests
The construction and operation of buildings consumes over a third of the world’s energy consumption, and 40% of all the mined resources. Striving to make buildings more sustainable, while saving construction and operating costs and improving health and occupant well being is not only possible and practical, it should be the goal of the building industry. Achieving this goal requires an awareness of the problem and the skills to design, specify, construct, and operate buildings in a manner that is often quite different from current standard approaches. This digest will review the challenge of sustainability, discuss methods of assessing green buildings, and recommend a process by which more sustainable buildings can be delivered.
Consumption by the United States
In the United States:
Reducing consumption without reducing use is a costly delusion. If undeveloped countries consumed at the same rate as the US, four complete planets the size of the Earth would be required.
Americans constitute 5% of the world’s population but consume 24% of the world’s energy.
On average, one American consumes as much energy as
The population is projected to increase by nearly 130 million people – the equivalent of adding another four states the size of California – by the year 2050.
Forty percent of births are unintended.
Americans eat 815 billion calories of food each day – that’s roughly 200 billion more than needed – enough to feed 80 million people.
Americans throw out 200,000 tons of edible food daily.
The average American generates 52 tons of garbage by age 75.
The average individual daily consumption of water is 159 gallons, while more than half the world’s population lives on 25 gallons.
Fifty percent of the wetlands, 90% of the northwestern old-growth forests, and 99% of the tall-grass prairie have been destroyed in the last 200 years.
Eighty percent of the corn grown and 95% of the oats are fed to livestock.
Fifty-six percent of available farmland is used for beef production.
Every day an estimated nine square miles of rural land are lost to development.
There are more shopping malls than high schools.
250 million people have died of hunger-related causes in the past quarter-century — roughly 10 million each year.
700 to 800 million people, perhaps even as many as a billion, don’t get enough food to support normal daily activities
Africa now produces 27% less food per capita than in 1964.
1.7 billion people lack access to clean drinking water, and by the year 2000, the number of urban dwellers without access to safe water and sanitation services is expected to grow by 80%.
0.1% of pesticides applied to crops reaches the pest, the rest poisons the ecosystem.
Each year 25 million people are poisoned by pesticides in less developed countries, and over 20,000 die.
One-third of the world’s fish catch and more than one-third of the world’s total grain output is fed to livestock.
It takes an average of 25 gallons of water to produce a pound of wheat in modern Western farming systems. It takes 5,214 gallons of water to produce a pound of beef.
Each person in the industrialized world uses as much commercial energy as 10 people in the developing world.
source: Paul Ehrlich and the Population Bomb / PBS
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